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Can Parkinson’s Affect The Eyes

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How Parkinsons Disease Affects The Eye

Vlog #123 Eye Problems In Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinsons disease is a progressive degenerative condition of the neurological system. The majority of Parkinsons effects are on movement, often starting off very slowly and subtly. One of the earliest symptoms is a slight tremor in one or both hands. Other early symptoms include a lack of facial expression and decreased blinking of the eyes, so it looks like the person is always staring.

The next stage usually results in difficulty with initiating movement, especially walking. It frequently looks like it takes a tremendous concentrated effort to initiate walking and the steps often start off very small with a shuffling of the feet. At the same time, the disease stiffens the muscles of the arms so that when the person is walking there is a noticeable decrease in the swinging of the arms. Speech becomes much softer and writing becomes more of an effort, with handwriting getting smaller and smaller as the disease progresses.

Parkinsons can also affect your visual performance, mainly in two parts of your eyes: the tear film and the ocular muscles.

If you dont blink enough, the tear film begins to dry out in spots and having dry spots next to moist spots results in an irregular film and therefore blurred vision. That is how the decreased blinking frequency in people with Parkinsons disease results in a complaint of intermittent blurred vision.

The majority of these problems do improve if the Parkinsons is treated with medication or even brain stimulation.

Coping With Vision Problems From Parkinson’s

There is currently no cure for the disease itself, but there are options to treat the symptoms of PD. A combination of medications, physical and/or occupational therapy, support groups, and of course, top-quality vision care can give a PD patient relief for some of their symptoms and tools to help cope with the condition.

Research and clinical trials are continuing as doctors and others in the medical community work towards the goal of finding a cure for PD.

No two patients are alike, and each can experience PD differently from the other, so finding what works for you or your loved one is key. During this Parkinson’s Awareness Month, share your #KeyToPD and give your loved ones hope for a healthy and high quality of life.

Common Complications And Side

As Parkinsons disease progresses , symptoms have a knock-on effect. Deterioration and impairments in the body can lead to a variety of other health concerns that cause a person great difficulty.

As much as these potential concerns cause discomfort for a person, all are treatable with appropriate medication or therapies.

Associated complications which can arise include:

How to manage some of the more common side-effects of Parkinsons disease

The nature of Parkinsons disease progression means that the condition manifests in a variety of ways, not just in areas of mobility. Non-motor symptoms can sometimes be of more distress to a sufferer, troubling their day-to-day lives even more so than their physical ailments.

Once certain non-motor symptoms are recognised, it is easier to understand why and how they are adversely affecting quality of life, as well as gain control through appropriate treatment.

Other problems which can also be effectively managed include:

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Types Of Eye Movements

There are three kinds of eye movements that can change with PD:

  • Saccadic rapid eye movements direct us to gaze at a specific object or to read lines of print.
  • Pursuit eye movements allow us to follow an object as it moves.
  • Vergence eye movements allow us to move our eyes in different directions2

Changes to these eye movements due to Parkinsons can also result in different kinds of visual difficulties. The inability to control eye movements can lead to involuntary blinking, double vision and other motor issues that can affect visual acuity.

Dry eyes can be treated with drops or ointments, warm wet compresses, but are not generally cured. The blink reflex can be impacted by PD. This manifests as either a slowing of the reflex, appearing as inappropriate staring, dry or burning eyes and by reduced vision. Blepaharospasm and apraxia are two common eyelid motion issues. Blephararospasms are eyelid spasms that cannot be controlled, cause eyelids to squeeze, and can be relieved with Botox injections. Apraxia is a condition that makes it difficult to open eyes. There are specialized lid crutches and cosmetic tape that can be applied to hold the eyelids open.2

Smell And Vision Difficulties


Only two paragraphs about the loss of smell in Parkinsons precede nearly a dozen eye problems and vision difficulties for people with Parkinsons and useful tips for coping with them. Of note is a paragraph suggesting that those with glaucoma may have problems with anticholinergic medication and levodopa.

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Medical Recognition Of Breathing Disorders

The existence of these breathing disorders have been known about, but largely ignored, in medical circles, for decades. Indeed, L.C. Lum, a cardiologist at Papworth & Addenbrookes Hospitals, Cambridge, UK, wrote an article on this entitled Hyperventilation: the Tip of the Iceberg in 1975. Here are some relevant excerpts:

“…this syndrome… shows up in medical clinics under many other guises. This is merely the tip of the iceberg the body of the iceberg, the ninety nine per cent who do not present , presents a collection of bizarre and often apparently unrelated symptoms, which may affect any part of the body, and any organ or any system. The many organs involved are often reflected in the number of specialists to whom the patient gets referred, and my colleagues have variously dubbed this the multiple doctor or the fat folder syndrome. Indeed the thickness of the case file is often an important diagnostic clue.”

Lum lists many symptoms, many of which are also common in PD: palpitations, disturbance of consciousness/vision, shortness of breath. “asthma” chest pain, dysphagia, muscle pains, tremors, tension, anxiety, fatigability, weakness, exhaustion, sleep disturbance nightmare, constipation, diarrhea, twitching eyelids, headache, giddiness, difficulty in breathing, weak limbs, painful limbs, vague pain, weakness, irritability, insomnia.

Visual Changes In Parkinsons Disease

Parkinsons disease is a chronic disease that affects the nervous system. It causes a variety of symptoms that often progress over time. It can also lead to some changes in the eyes. April is Parkinsons Awareness Month. It is an opportunity to learn more about this disorder and how eye problems can be managed.

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Reduced Blinking & Eye Movement Disturbances

Other eye movement disturbances have been described in parkinsonism. These include an impaired ability to pursue a moving target with the eyes, difficulty initiating gaze shifts or taking the eyes off a face. Also, the ability to maintain eccentric gaze is impaired, and the blink frequency tends to be reduced. Of these abnormalities, only the latter tends to show significant symptoms, as reduced blinking can cause a feeling of dry eyes. This may be further enhanced by reduction in tear secretion, which is not uncommon in parkinsonism. Management of dry eyes usually involves the use of artificial tears. It is rare that additional measures are needed to combat symptoms of dry eyes in patients with parkinsonism.

Patients with parkinsonism are also susceptible to visual hallucinations. These can be related to the underlying neurological illness or medications used for treatment. PD patients who have visual hallucinations respond well to antipsychotic medications such as quetiapine. Hallucinations should always be reported to the physician.

Progressive Supranuclear Palsy And Cortico

My Parkinsons Story: Visual Disturbances

PSP and CBD are both four-repeat tau diseases exhibiting considerable similarities and overlap . Distinguishing PD from PSP can be especially difficult early in the disease. Atypical features of PSP include slowing of upward saccades, moderate slowing of downward saccades, the presence of a full range of voluntary vertical eye movements, a curved trajectory of oblique saccades, and absence of square-wave jerks . Hence, particularly useful in separating PSP from PD is the presence in the former of vertical supranuclear gaze palsy, fixation instability, lid retraction, blepharospasm, and apraxia of eyelid opening and closing . Downgaze palsy is probably the most useful diagnostic clinical symptom of PSP . Deficits in colour vision appear to be more important in PD and directly related to the dopamine system. However, in untreated early PD, no consistent deficits in colour vision were demonstrated making this alone an unreliable indicator of PD .

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Vision Problems Are Common In Parkinsons

Research has shown that visual symptoms are extraordinarily common in people living with Parkinsons. Visual symptoms may occur due to changes in the front of the eye due to dry eye, changes in the retina , or changes in how our eyes move together. At the same time, many other things can affect vision, including diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts, which increase with age. Distinguishing between visual symptoms caused directly by Parkinsons versus one of these other conditions can be difficult.

Visual symptoms related to Parkinsons can be specific: eyes can feel dry, gritty/sandy, and may burn or have redness. You may experience crusting on the lashes, lids that stick together in the morning, sensitivity to light, or dry eye. On the other hand, symptoms can be non- specific: you may notice your vision just isnt what it used to be, and you have difficulty seeing on a rainy night, in dim lighting, or while reading, etc.

What Is Parkinsons Disease

Parkinsons Disease is a neurological disorder that affects the brains ability to control physical movement. It typically affects middle aged people and the elderly. Parkinsons causes a decrease in the brains natural levels of dopamine, which normally aids nerve cells in passing messages within the brain. According to The Parkinsons Foundation and Statistics Canada, the disorder affects an estimated 1 million people in the United States, 55 000 Canadians, and 10 million globally.

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Molecular And Neurotransmitter Deficits In Pd

Although dysfunction of the dopamine neurotransmitter system has long been associated with the pathophysiology of PD accumulating evidence suggests that PD is a multisystem degeneration . Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter in the retina being present in amacrine cells along the inner border of the inner nuclear layer , and accumulated by interplexiform cells . Two types of amacrine cells appear to be involved: type 1 cells which send ascending processes to synapse with -aminobutyric acid interplexiform cells in stratum 1 of the INL and type 2 cells which have dendrites stratifying above those of the type 1 cells of the inner plexiform layer . Dopamine may be involved in the organisation of the ganglion cell and bipolar cell receptive fields and may modulate the physical activity of the photoreceptors . In addition, dopamine is involved in the coupling of the horizontal and amacrine lateral system . Thinning of the retinal nerve fibre layer has been recorded in PD . In particular, significant thinning of INL in parafoveal regions has been observed, especially in those patients exhibiting visual hallucinations but without overt signs of dementia .

Vision: More Than Meets The Eye Tricks To Aid Pd Patients

How Vision Is Affected by Parkinson

Retired neurologist and young onset Parkinsons patient, Dr. Maria De León reminds us that vision is integral to our quality of life and safety, especially with respect to driving. She lists 11 common eye problems with PD, and a few uncommon ones. They may be helped by adjusting medications, with special lenses, or artificial tears. See your doctor to find out.

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Parkinson’s Disease Can Affect The Eyes And Here’s What We Know So Far

by Salil Patel, Chrystalina Antoniades, Pearse Keane, Siegfried Wagner, The Conversation

Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease, affecting over 10 million people worldwide. It’s characterized by changes in movement, including tremors, and slower and more rigid movements. But researchers are also beginning to investigate other symptoms of Parkinson’s diseaseincluding those involving the eye.

Parkinson’s results from the degeneration of dopamine neurons in the brain’s basal gangliaan area involved in voluntary movement. Though no cure exists for Parkinson’s, symptoms can be managed with drugs that replace dopamine.

No single diagnostic test exists for Parkinson’s as the blood-brain barrier and skull make it hard to assess the brain. As a result subjective assessments of symptoms are used to diagnose patients.

Given Parkinson’s is known to affect the body’s motor system, it’s perhaps not surprising it has been shown to disrupt eye movements. Promisingly, Parkinson’s may be diagnosed using technologies that already exist by showing subtle changes in eye movements and the thinning of specific layers in the retina. This may help measure the effectiveness of treatments and determine the progression of the disease.

Changes in movement

Though evidence from the small number of stimulation studies conflict, they highlight how Parkinson’s disease could influence eyes movements.

Retinal thinning

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Screening Tests And Recommended Treatments

We recommend starting the examination by excluding severe visual impairment. This can be done by briefly testing the near visual acuity . This is an excellent screening test since it is easy to administer and because only few significant disorders leave visual acuity unaffected. Above the age of 45, appropriate reading glasses are required for normal near vision. Reading acuity as well as reading speed are good predictors of everyday visual function . Moderate vision impairment can be defined as < 6/24 on the visual acuity test and severe vision impairment as < 6/60 . Dopaminergic medication may influence visual acuity, causing refraction changes during the medication cycle. Therefore, some patients may need adapted glasses depending upon the medication phase. Referral to an ophthalmologist is advised in case of significant vision impairment.

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Ocular And Visual Disorders In Parkinsons Disease: Common But Frequently Overlooked

This literature search covering 50 years reviews the range of ocular and visual disorders in patients with PD and classifies these according to anatomical structures of the visual pathway. It discusses six common disorders in more detail, reviews the effects of PD-related pharmacological and surgical treatments on visual function, and offers practical recommendations for clinical management.

Vision Problems With Psp

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Slowness in looking up or down with moving the head is a symptom in a severe parkinsonian disorder called progressive supranuclear palsy . Patients with PSP have trouble initiating gaze shifts in the up and downward direction, and the speed and extent of such gaze shifts reduce as the disease progresses.

The negative effects on vision and visual orientation are profound. Patients can eventually loose their ability to look down through the reading part of their glasses, causing an inability to read. In addition, they become susceptible to falls by not seeing where they step on level ground or on stairs. This adds greatly to mobility and balance problems, which are already prominent with PSP.

Unfortunately, there is no treatment for this eye movement disorder. To make reading easier, special reading glasses that cover the entire field of vision can be prescribed, and reading material may have to be placed at eye level in a special stand.

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Ophthalmologic Features Of Parkinsons Disease

This paper is a systematic evaluation of the ocular complaints and ocular finding of 30 PD patients with early untreated PD, and 31 control subjects without neurologic or known ocular diseases. The ocular abnormalities found more commonly encountered by PD patients frequently respond to treatment. Abstract and access to the full article.

Ongoing Research To Further Treatment

UT Southwestern researchers and ophthalmologists regularly participate in national clinical trials as well as international research projects. For example, Vinod Mootha, M.D., a member of our research team, traveled to an area of India in which inbreeding is common. Data retrieved were analyzed in order to identify, characterize, and model genetic variations and mutations that alter specific genes and cause hereditary degenerative diseases that affect the eyes. Using this information and our relevant systems, we are working to identify prevention methods to reduce incidences of eye-related neurodegeneration symptoms around the world.

Among the most exciting accomplishments in vision research is gene therapy for the treatment of Leber congenital amaurosis , a rare retinal degenerative condition characterized by severe vision loss starting at birth. Today, using a benign adeno-associated virus , researchers can replace the defective copy of the gene that causes LCA with a fully functional copy, preventing the disease from progressing.

We also perform AAV gene therapy studies in mouse models of eye diseases to assess their preventive and therapeutic effectiveness. In some instances, we are able to gauge the effectiveness of such therapies nearly immediately after introduction into the eye using noninvasive functional tests a benefit of ophthalmology that many other areas of medicine do not enjoy.

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Is Vision Specifically Affected In Pd Dementia

Many of the oculo-visual features present in early and middle stage PD will become more severe if the patient develops PD dementia. However, some features appear to be particularly exacerbated in PD dementia including deficits in colour vision and changes in pupillary function . In addition, there are visual features which may be particularly characteristic of PD dementia. First, prominent visual hallucinations are significantly more frequent in PD dementia than PD . Second, severe eye movement problems are more likely to be present in PD dementia and to become more extensive with declining cognitive function . Third, defects in visuospatial orientation are likely to be greater in PD dementia especially when associated with greater cortical atrophy . Many additional visual features, already detected in PD, are likely to be present in a more severe form in PD dementia.


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